Week 2: The Three Choirs Festival, Hereford, England

Week 3: Our tour of Wales

On Sunday, August 17, we collected our little English Fiat from it's nest on Green St., collected our luggage and headed east on highway 40 for Hereford. 
 After moving all our luggage into our tiny room, finding the cafeteria where we ate our breakfast and dinner (not an easy task), and taking the coach to the first evening concert, we were finally ready the next morning for some serious picture taking. We had to walk about a mile Monday  morning to the city center and the picture below is the first view we got of the giant structure.
We passed through Cheltenham and had lunch on a park bench but we not decided to contact anybody in that city which was our home for three years. Our goal was a week of uninterrupted music at the Three Choirs Festival which was held this year in Hereford. It consists of the combined choirs of the Hereford, Worcester, and Gloucester Cathedrals and has been cycling though those three cathedrals for the past 276 years. We had some trouble finding our reserved accommodations which were at the "College for the Blind" about a mile from the cathedral, and getting our tickets which were paid for over the internet. But, we finally were here. Below is the exterior of the cathedral which would provide us with choral and instrumental music for the next week.

    Evening Cathedral Concert #1. 7:45 pm Sunday;
              Work                       Composer                                                                Comments                     
 I was glad        C Hupert H Perry 1848-1918 "Old English" choral style -- pre Elgar, Williams, Britten. Trifle boring!
 'Coronation' Mass in C Wolfgang  Mozart 1756-91 Totally gorgeous -- memories of our TWC performance in Vienna
This Worlde's Joie William Mathias 1934-92 Stunning! Didn't have the book, missed most of the lyrics, no recording available. 

Monday -- The Interior of the Hereford Cathedral
Our seats were in the front row of the Raised Plinth section about half way between the top of the map where the chorus sang and the bottom which was the Lady Chapel. The little red square shows our exact location.
To your left is a map of the interior of the cathedral. Here we were with camera in hand, bean bag in case, and because of restrictive ropes all over the place, the only access we had was the extreme south end of the cathedral where one couldn't see a thing, except the Lady Chapel pictured below. Well, we also saw some interesting organ pipes which are pictured and explained below, but we couldn't even get to where we sat last evening for our first concert. Risking an international incident, I complained sternly to the person who seemed responsible for the rope placement. He said that letting persons into the audience might risk someone stumbling on the chairs. Good Grief!
Not only did we get him to let this brash American couple access to the interior, but he totally redesigned the ropes for the remainder of the week to allow access to all when there wasn't a concert going on for us unreasonable but pushy  photographers.


This is the view we had from our seats all week. We managed to get seats in the first row that was elevated, so our view of the chorus was unobstructed.  Also, we had ample leg room and could easily get in and out of our row. You have to imagine those risers totally covered by the 250 singers for the performances. The orchestra was seated in front of the singers and the trumpets and trombones were directed straight at us -- providing a tremendous sound for the Dies Ira in the Verdi Requiem. We had the same persons in the seats to the right and left of us all week.
Not only did we have a good view of the chorus, but that black screen to the right of the picture above was a video that focused on the soloists, director and various musicians throughout the evening performances.
Granted, not all the tickets were so great. Here, Elaine is sitting in one of the sold seats that has only a video to watch - and has no view whatsoever of the musicians. Cheaper seats, no doubt.
Actually, our seats as well as all of the chairs in the center of the sanctuary are reversed from their normal service position. Looking back from our seats, you see the choir section with the pipe organ standing out from the stone wall. For the festival concerts, all the seats are reversed so they look to the back of the cathedral. The picture to the right is the altar at the very opposite of the cathedral from the choir.

The picture above shows some of the weird mitre work that has to be done to get extremely long pipes. I would have thought that such a tall building could deal with longer pipes.  
Left, we see a picture of the decorative ceiling of the main section of the cathedral. Notice all the colors.
And from our seats, we get this view of the singers.  This is the only time we attempted a photograph during a concert. 

A close up of the altar.

This was taken from in front of the altar, through the choir, all the way to the choir risers -- barely visible between the choir seats. Note the fancy wood carvings above the choir stalls. These are the seats we should have had for the organ concert.
Back at the cathedral, we see the Morris Dancers. The group originated at Headington, a local quarrying village now a district of Oxford. "They have danced in the Oxford area for Yonks years 100's."  Comment from Peter Lapworth. Thanks, Peter. 
Monday Cathedral Concert, 7:45 pm. It was L'enfance du Christ by Hector Berloiz (1803-69). By then, we had purchased a program book and could follow the English words. The music was beautiful but the text was an odd subject for a biblical oratorio. (The flight of Mary and Joseph to Egypt.)  The only familiar part was the shepherds farewell (Chorus of the Shepherds) which every church choir has sung at some time. (In fact, we are singing it in our Xmas 2003 concert series in the Kennedy Center.)


It is mid-morning -- and the town square seems to 

But our goal is the Town Hall. Not only is the mayor of Hereford having a reception for us (and some others) here, but we heard that there was a computer here with an internet connection.  Needed that! (No internet cafe in town.)
But the mayor's reception was here, and we were received by this highly decorated bloke.
Our one picture of a chorus rehearsal before they politely told us that "the taking of photographs is not allowed in rehearsal".
be having some sort of celebration.
They were right about the computer, but except for being able to download our stock market results from the previous day, getting email was impossible.  We were told that the library also has a few free internet computers. We eventually found them but could take no inside pictures of them.;
Since reading email was not possible, we were among the first to attend the reception.
Two students playing harps in front of the festival ticket office.

Tuesday's evening concert was Lennox Berkeley's Voices of the Night, Hector Berlioz's Les nuites d'ete, and Beethoven's Christ on the Mount of Olives. I was really looking forward to the Beethoven, but found all but the familiar last movement (Choir of Angels) pretty boring. The Choir of Angels, when sung in English, is usually referred to as Beethoven's Halleluiah Chorus. Now I know why the entire work is rarely performed. It takes a festival. 

Note the beautiful flower pots near the archway.
Elaine talking to a fellow American.
Nice crowd. We talked to one of the orchestra conductors. It seemed that the dean invited foreigners and principal performers. Very nice event, even though the wine was really bad. We served better in Cheltenham from our cheap PX! 
A parting look over my shoulder to see one of the best pictures yet of the cathedral. Note the flying buttresses and the polite English gentlepeople protecting themselves from the hot sun. 
Elaine really wanted close-ups of these. 
This was the Dean's reception - Rev. Canon Michael Travinor.
This is the Wye River -- at the end of the dean's garden.
Wouldn't want to mow that lawn. I'd rather buy a town house.
This is the john (loo) and St. John's door. Our official entry point for all the concerts.

    Wednesday was musically a big day for us. This afternoon, we had a 2:15 concert of Bach and Handel. It was the large chorus' day off so the choral music was provided by the three cathedral choirs. (We skipped Bach's Magnificat in D since we had once heard it performed in St. Thomas Church in Leipzig.)  

    The evening concert was Tintagel by Arnold Bax (lots of brass),  Gerald Finzi's Violin Concerto (I thought the solo violin didn't project too well) and  Elgar's fabulous  Symphony No 1. This concert prompted us to buy two CD's, one of Tintagel, and one of the Elgar symphony. On the coach going back, I was overheard humming one of the Elgar themes and one of the Brits exclaimed, "An American singing Elgar!"

Two More Days of festival.  These contain mostly personal pictures and the concert details.